After watching season one of Chef’s Table France, we knew that dining at Arpege was high on our list of things we wanted to do during our four days in Paris. Ranked #6 in the world on the World’s 50 Best List 2018, this was the epitome of a three star, French Michelin dining experience. Arpege is located right in downtown Paris near the Musee Rodin. Reservations are available online via their website for about a year in advance. We had no problem getting a dinner reservation in the winter about three months out, and did not have to put down a credit card to reserve our table.
We arrived for our 8:00 pm reservation and due to a snafu with a private party, were seated in the basement in a six table wine cellar. Some of the other diners in the room seemed annoyed to be there, but we really enjoyed the privacy and more intimate atmosphere. Chef Alain Paissard was a regular face in the private room, and even with a language barrier made us feel welcomed and appreciated during our dinner. We also had our own set of waitstaff which made the experience that much more personable.
The Chef’s Table episode talks about Chef Passard and his evolution as a chef from cooking traditionally meat-centric meals to cooking completely vegetarian and growing almost all of his produce in his gardens outside Paris. As a result, there are three menus available for dinner: a vegetable tasting menu, a land and sea tasting menu, and an a la carte menu. Our waiter convinced us that if we were going to do the tasting menu, that one of us should order the vegetable and the other order the land and sea, and we were really glad we made that choice. There were elements of both menus that were spectacular and the menus were so different that it was nice to be able to share them and try that many more dishes. There is an extensive wine list, but no pairing options, so we just ordered bottles of wine per the sommelier’s suggestion throughout dinner.
Overall, our experience at Arpege was incredible. The staff was very attentive, we were constantly blown away by particular dishes, and felt the constant influence of Paissard’s garden throughout the meal. It really changed our perception of what “vegetarian food” could be- for example the beet burger with poached egg. While not a traditional burger, it really did taste as good as it looks. Even the desserts were primarily vegetable based! Some of our favorites were the shallot tart with caramel and a celery root ice cream with sweet herb creme anglais.